Pro-Cloud Predictions and Expectations
In just a few days’ time the Pro-Cloud Trophy kicks off and we can’t wait to see what three of the finest football powerhouses bring to the table. So, with that in mind, we caught up with some of the players and coaches find out how they are feeling about the opportunity and the opposition.
Opening thoughts from one of the Sharks finest, Defensive Tackle Nikki Joseph – a relentless driving machine, ready to swamp the back field with brute force and precision. Having picked up some MVP honours in the Sharks’s journey to the WFA’s Division II title this season Joseph is certainly expected to be a handful for both opponents’ Offensive lines.
What are your thoughts ahead of the tournament Nikki?
‘I am now 43 and I have played with the Sharks for 12years. At the end of the tournament I will have played 115 games, so this is such a great opportunity to travel and play internationally as a club. We are making history.’
What do you know about your tournament opponents?
‘Unless players have attended the Women’s World Football Games (WWFG) I don’t really know what we may face. The WWFG brings players together from over 22 countries and teaches football. I love meeting women from all over the world who share the same passion as I do so I am looking forward to some great competition and meeting even more sisters from World Football.’
All the teams have some outstanding players and I am sure we will see some dazzling performances throughout the three days but who is your tip for tournament MVP?
‘I would love to say my QB Mulli and Nhandi. But I am looking forward to seeing what Lions Number 10 and Wolverines 34 bring. I also would love to say myself, but I am ok being unsung. The job of a DT.’
We also caught up with Lions’ #60, Elisha Huxtable, the unassuming and ever-humble Centre, to see how she’s set for the challenges ahead.
‘With the Pro-Cloud Tournament so close now I am expecting to face the challenge of a lifetime in what is an ever-expanding football experience for me. Football and the Lions has been amazing up to this point, but these next three days of competition will be another level in regards to the opposition and intensity.’
Having you been keeping on your opponents progress throughout their respective seasons?
‘I have watched a few games here and there that have been streamed or available via the internet. I haven’t wanted to watch too much footage though so that I can focus on my own game. At the end of the day we’re all going to be kitting up and playing football and come game day who knows what can happen but I am not going to deny both team’s look like they mean business.’
Always a solid performer for the Lions what are you looking forward to the most and who are you backing for the tournament MVP honours?
‘I am most looking forward to kitting up and playing 11 a side football really. It’s been a while since our last game and it will be great to take to the field with the Lions family again. As for tournament MVP I am going to throw a new name out there in the ring – Ashleigh ‘Mash’ Aiston.’
Another of the Lions contingent is the ever-professional Caley Parnell. The Defensive Back had a great Diamond Bowl and we’re sure will feature heavily across the tournament.
‘I am super excited to be taking part in the Transatlantic Trophy, it is going to be the biggest football event I have taken part in so far and easily it will be the biggest test the Lions team has ever faced. After a successful Diamond Bowl it is great to now be the hosts of an international club tournament, which is a first for UK Women’s football, so this is also a massive opportunity for us to promote the sport to a wider audience.’
Parnell, recently selected to the GB Practice Squad after an impressive showing in the Diamond Bowl gave us her thoughts on the opposition.
‘I can’t wait for the opportunity to play against an American team and the fact they are the National Division II champions only adds to the challenge. Then you have the Wolverines, they will be stern opposition for sure and will absolutely want to take that win we had against them (at 9s in 2017) right back from us. As a team we are always looking to challenge ourselves against the best opposition and keep pushing the sport forwards which is exactly what this tournament and opponents provide.’
So, who has Caley’s vote for tournament MVP honours: ‘One word – Ruth.’
Finally, but by no means last, how are the Wolverines feeling about the task ahead? After a very impressive season in the Maple League the Helsinki outfit have many stars at game-temperature ready to shine. They have dominated what is a very competitive European league and will be more than a handful for both the Sharks and Lions.
We managed to speak to Head Coach Pekka Lamminsalo and two of the Wolverines players Sanni Seppala and Minna Lehtinen about their preparation and thoughts ahead of the tournament.
‘In terms of the organisation of the tournament the Lions have done a brilliant job so far and I am expecting a successful tournament all round’ offered Coach, ‘…but when it comes to the actual football it is really difficult to predict the power rankings between the teams. Naturally the Sharks are the team to beat but we will be focusing on improving our own play to be the best we can be and we’ll see how far that can take us.’
Coach Lamminsalo has been working hard on scouting preparation throughout the year and has been following the streams of the New York Sharks throughout their successful season, adding: ‘They are a great team with a great coaching staff.’
The Wolverine HC also kept a close eye on the Lions throughout the Diamond Bowl in April so will be aware of the task ahead and admits both teams will be up there with the toughest opponents he will have faced this season.
Sanni is the Wolverines kicker and one of the WR core and I am sure #3 will be wanting to put points on the board for the Wolverines, she had these thoughts ahead of the tournament.
‘I am expecting tough games. I am looking forwarded to seeing how we are doing as a team on an international level and it will be nice to finish off our great season in an international tournament. We have seen the Birmingham Lions play during the Diamond Bowl but the Sharks are more unfamiliar for us. But thanks to YouTube we have watched the Sharks Div II final game and it has made our preparation easier. I am really looking forward to playing against a team from the United States and we will be the first Finnish Club team to do that. There are a bunch of stars in this tournament and it would be too hard to nominate just one who will shine throughout so I will just look forward to seeing what the tournament will bring.’
Minna is a member of the Wolverines outstanding DL who will be battling it out in the trenches to make her mark in the oppositions back field. Minna is ready, as are all the Wolverines, and she added a few comments.
‘I am expecting tough and good games but also a nice trip where we can experience new things to end our football season on a high. We are already familiar with the Lions as we had a practise game against them back in early 2017 and we have seen them play in the Diamond Bowl. The New York Sharks are an unknown opponent and I am super excited to play against them. I think both teams will be tough. In terms of the players to watch it’s hard to predict beforehand but our Running Back Tytti Kuusinen (#34) has just had an amazing season for us and played very well in the final. I think her form will continue in to the Pro-Cloud Tournament.’
HC Lamminsalo also mentioned the highly rated RB Kuusinen amongst his top players along with Lions Ruth Matta and the Sharks QB Karen Mulligan. It is certainly a tournament shaping up to showcase some exceptional players.
With all these stars on show and with football coming thick and fast over the weekend clear your diaries and get down to see the clash of the Lions, Sharks and Wolverines.
Photo © D. Sparling.